We have much reason for gratitude; much reason to praise the LORD for His great deeds in the history of His church. On the 23rd March 2017, the Free Reformed School Association began its celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation combined with its celebration of the 60th anniversary of the commencement of its John Calvin Schools (Perth metro and west coast). The celebrations began with a couple of well attended speeches.
One of these was presented by Rev I Wildeboer (PNG missionary) who spoke on the “Primacy of Scripture”. What follows are some notes I took of his speech. Since he is a rapid speaker, and I did not catch every word, my notes left gaps which I later filled from memory. It’s possible that in some places, to enhance flow, I’ve added to what he said. Nevertheless, I believe that what follows provides the gist of what he said. Where there are errors, charge them to me; he is absolved of any blame.
The Primacy of Scripture
Rev Wiildeboer began by telling his audience to mark the day, 23rd March 2017, on their calendars as the night of conflicting celebrations.
On the one hand, he said, we are celebrating both 500 years of the Reformation of the church after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door, and celebrating 60 years of reformed education at our John Calvin Schools. We are celebrating God’s goodness and mercy and faithfulness to us.
On the other hand, there are people of the world who are also celebrating. LGBTQI activists a couple of weeks ago celebrated a Sydney ‘gay’ and lesbian Mardi Gras with some 12,000 supporters. Moreover, they are celebrating the screening of Walt Disney’s latest film for children, Beauty and the Beast, featuring a homosexual character during an “exclusively gay moment”.
These LGBT activists are flexing their muscles. For example, they have managed to pressure some big businesses to publicly support them. Then, just a few days ago, they put pressure on IBM to sack a manager because of his involvement in a Christian organisation. A brewery caved in to pressure, withdrew financial support to the distribution of Bibles and openly declared support for same-sex marriage and the LGBT cause. There are even mainline churches who lend their support to same sex marriage and homosexual relations.
This is the ‘brave new world’ called western civilisation in which we find ourselves. Our numbers are tiny and it’s not hard to see where this will lead: we’ll be hated because antichristian forces will continue to grow. We live in perilous times, evil times (2 Tim. 3:1). Indeed, since the time of the Reformation the crisis in which we now find ourselves is unprecedented.
At root, it’s a crisis of whether we can trust Scriptures as the authoritative Word of God. Moreover, with us, too, there is a crisis of lethargy in studying God’s Word. Even in our own circles there is less interest in studying Scripture than in the past. Whilst a primary motto of the Reformation was Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone – we need to ask ourselves whether we are still clinging to that. Do we still hold to the truth of God’s Word? For we must! Jesus told his disciples: If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed (John 8:31). Therefore, we dare not let go of this Word.
Keep in mind that on this earth there are two parties: those who follow Christ and those who follow Satan. Their world views conflict with one another. At heart of this conflict is the question of the primacy and authority of Holy Scripture.
Primacy of Scripture – What is it?
What do we mean when we speak about the primacy of Scripture? Primacy means first. And the sola in ‘Sola Scriptura’ refers to the fact that the Bible alone is the infallible and inerrant Word of God. It’s what we confess in our Belgic Confession articles 3, 5 and 7.
The importance of this is what Paul impressed upon Timothy. Paul reminds him how “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 3:15).
But our great opponent from of old, Satan, attacks God’s Word. He goes around like a roaring lion, seeking to deceive people. He is exceedingly fierce (Mt 8:28) and his aim is to undermine the truth of Scripture, to obliterate it from the public arena. Remember how the priests and Sadducees commanded the disciples “not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). Why? What happens when the Scriptures are rejected?
Primacy of Scripture – What happens when the Scriptures are rejected?
Timothy is warned to keep in mind Paul’s way of life, his purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings… (2 Tim. 3:10). That’s because there will be terrible times in the last days (2 Tim. 3:1) with people being “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents”, etc. That’s what happens when people reject God’s Word.
For when God’s Word is rejected there are no absolutes. And this is what the radical liberalists and secular humanists promote. Then you get the sorts of things we are seeing today – a proliferation of pornography, a sexual revolution, unnatural behaviours, etc. If Scripture is rejected as the standard, then society is open to all sorts of licentiousness and perversions.
During the 19th and 20th centuries the truth of Scripture started to be questioned. Western society’s Christianity was merely a thin veneer; their heart wasn’t in it. As Paul said, the people will have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5). False teachers deny the primacy and authority of Scripture and the promoters of the theory of evolution trumpet a Darwinian paradise. If we don’t see the absolute authority of Scripture as our starting point, even when we study science, we have lost the plot.
It is possible to pay lip service to the Bible but be apathetic and indifferent to its teachings. And it’s possible for us to be side-tracked from studying God’s Word by all sorts of distractions, including Facebook and entertainment. It’s also possible to have lots of knowledge about all sorts of things but have a poor knowledge of Scripture. Moreover, we need to be alert to what’s happening to our youth, for the world is catechising our youth in many ways. To counter these dangers we must therefore devote ourselves all the more to studying the Bible.
If Christians don’t take God’s Word seriously we will see Christians visit porn sites (as is happening). If we don’t dedicate ourselves to the study of God’s Word we will come to ignore what the Lord tells us, for example, in Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage is honourable among all, and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Do not to be deceived by Satan. “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9,10). And that’s what we become when the Scriptures are ignored.
But let’s also be under no illusions about what may happen to us when we dedicate ourselves to Scriptures and boldly uphold it. If we confess Christ and His Word, we will be called bigots, fundamentalists, and other unflattering names. We will be hated, ridiculed, held in contempt. In Canada, there is a Canadian Reformed 19-year-old home-schooled young man named Sam Oosterhoff who recently became the youngest member of parliament. He dares to stand up for the truth of God’s Word but, in response, cops verbal abuse and vitriol, particularly through the social media. We can expect the same if we confess Christ and His Word.
Primacy of Scripture – What is our only antidote to this collision course with the world?
Where godlessness reigns, we have to let Scriptures speak – even if this means being on a collision course. Society’s pseudo Christian mask is off, so be prepared. Admittedly there are escape options: we can be silent; we can compromise Scripture to make it more acceptable to those around us; we can close our eyes to what’s going on around us. But for those who love God the only true option is to confess the truth of God’s Word and go forward placing their trust in Him.
Our love for and dedication to God and His Word must live in our homes and schools. The seeds of the Gospel must be passed on to the children, first in the home but also in the school. This is what we promised before the LORD and His congregation when our children were baptised. But in order to nurture our children in the reformed faith and in godliness we need to be well at home in the Scriptures. In this way, we can inculcate the truth so that our children learn to have a Biblical answer to every problem they face.
For this reason, the teachers, too, need to be well grounded in Scripture. It was on account of the high view of Scripture that Luther and Calvin promoted Christian schools in which the children would be taught the full counsel of God. These schools are to function together with church and home to educate the church’s children, the children of the covenant, in the sound knowledge of God and His Word.
Primacy of Scripture – What is our present application of Scriptures, especially in mentoring our youth?
Paul says to Timothy: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Note that it says “profitable for doctrine”. Even the Psalms are really concerned with doctrine. Doctrine is grounded in the stories of Scripture and all point to Christ.
The question we need to ask ourselves is: Do we really love and sufficiently meditate upon the Scriptures? And if so, how is that played out in our homes and schools? Children need to know what it is to be united with Christ.
At the root of every pastoral problem is sin, and the remedy to sin is Christ. Therefore focus on Scripture and the Holy Spirit will correct bad behaviour. For the Bible convicts us of sin and brings about a transformation. When we and our children sin, we sin against the Holy God. And if our children sin, we need to correct them in love. Treat children the same way as we treat our own flesh and blood.
Paul was Timothy’s mentor, and called Timothy his ‘son’. We need to be mentors to our children, being examples to them in how to live according to Scriptures. Paul tells Timothy to “continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 3:14-15).
Our greatest defence in this age is a new passion for Scripture. May our classrooms be theatres of praise to God and ground the children in the knowledge of Scriptures so that they grow in love for God and one another. Purge our homes from all distractions so that the children can grow in the knowledge of God whom they worship.
It begins by modelling a love and faithfulness to God that is grounded in His Word. Then you can start to enjoy the dividends. Take time to read and meditate on Scripture. The more we read it the more we learn to love it. Particularly the youth aged between 16 and 25 need our attention. They are at a stage in life when the passions rage and they need to be guided by Scripture. Mentor them as Paul did to Timothy. And if you face opposition from the world and false teachers then “consider Jesus who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself” (Hebrews 3).
The Reformation was a return to the Scriptures 500 years ago. But it’s not just something to remember of the past. There needs to be Semper Reformanda; that is, continuing reformation—continually abiding in God’s Word. In that way God alone receives the glory, and then we may go forward with the words of Christ in our hearts: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
Sola Scriptura – Sola Deo Gloria